Chargers stadium vote to be determined by penalty flags, wallpaper

One of the drawbacks to sports team owners of having to go through a public vote on stadium subsidies is that public opinion depends on, you know, the public’s opinion. When the San Diego Padres did this for their stadium initiative in 1998, it was perfect timing, because the team was headed for the World Series for only the second time in history. For the San Diego Chargers, it’s not working out quite so well, as the team blew a 21-point lead on Sunday and lost in overtime, leading to responses like this:

This makes no sense, of course — by the time a new stadium was built, there would be entirely different players on the Chargers anyway, given the trajectories of modern NFL careers — but this is undeniably how at least some voters think, and Chargers owner Dean Spanos needs every vote he can get.

As a preemptive countermove, the Chargers unveiled a new postgame press conference backdrop:

Democracy, man.

San Diego reportedly planning how to build Chargers stadium even after losing November vote

The public vote on the San Diego Chargers owners’ $1.15 billion stadium subsidy request is about two months away, and the prognosis remains “good luck with that“: A court has ruled that the measure needs a near-impossible two-thirds majority to pass, a hotel industry study projected that the city would only get three cents of revenue for every public dollar spent, and last week a group of local business leaders wrote an open letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer urging him to oppose the measure. If Kevin Delaney and Rick Eckstein’s Public Dollars, Private Stadiums can be summed up in one phrase, it’s “stadiums happen when the business classes are unified in support of them,” so yeah, this seems extra-doomed.

But in an article mostly focused on what position Faulconer will take, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Michael Smolens notes that there could be a long game at play here:

There’s some thinking, as laid out in a column this past week by the Union-Tribune’s Nick Canepa, that a Faulconer endorsement would help facilitate new stadium negotiations after the November election. Yes, even some notable Measure C backers don’t think it stands a chance to gain the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

Sounds like they’re planning the post-war world. Or seeking to get Measure C over the 50 percent mark in hopes that a case pending before the state Supreme Court could be decided in a way that would lower the threshold to a majority.

Even after reading that Canepa article (which is pretty hilarious, coming down to, “Hey, Mr. Mayor, just endorse the stadium, it won’t cost you your job, probably”), I’m not entirely clear on what that “post-war world” is supposed to look like — Chargers owner Dean Spanos needs to pull the trigger on a move to Los Angeles by January 15, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time to negotiation an alternate deal after November, especially since any tax increase would require another public vote. Maybe they’d get a state Supreme Court ruling overturning the two-thirds requirement by January, but that seems like a longshot.

All of which makes me think one thing: Man, Nevada really should be holding off on that $950 million Oakland Raiders subsidy request, since there’s a pretty good chance that by January, Raiders owner Mark Davis will no longer have moving to L.A. as an option, increasing Las Vegas’s leverage in cutting a better deal, if that’s what they want. I’d argue that no stadium deal in Vegas will work for Davis and partner Sheldon Adelson unless it’s a disaster for taxpayers, but as those guys know, can’t get if you don’t ask, right?

San Diego analyst: Hotel tax should cover Chargers stadium costs, unless it doesn’t

This is a bad headline:

Stadium measure would generate enough money if costs are right

This is the less-bad headline that the San Diego Union-Tribune later changed it to:

Chargers measure fiscally sound — if estimates are accurate

This is the actual story:

San Diego’s independent budget analyst says the Chargers proposed hotel tax hike would generate enough money to cover the team’s projected price tag for a combined stadium and convention center annex, but that the proposal may be underestimating those costs.

And this is what’s downplayed in the actual story: Whether the estimates are correct only determines whether the four-percentage-point hotel tax hike would generate enough money to cover the San Diego Chargers ownership’s requested costs. Either way, the city would be on the hook for $1.15 billion, it’s just a question of whether it would have to find more revenue on top of the hotel tax money.

Kids, always read the articles, not just the Facebook headlines, okay?

Old football team launches stadium campaign, yells at cloud

The San Diego Chargers owners yesterday launched their “Vote Yes on C” campaign to try to get two-thirds of San Diego voters to approve spending $1.15 billion on a football stadium/convention center expansion, which, good luck with that. They also unveiled what’s likely to be their main arguments for the plan:

“A yes vote on C will allow for the creation of a new facility that could host world-class events and conventions such as Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, NCAA title games, professional soccer, concerts, the X Games and a host of other high-profile events.  And no general funds will be used to build this new venue as it will be paid for by the Chargers and the NFL as well as tourists and business travelers staying in San Diego hotels.”

That’s all technically true — the money would all come from a whopping four percentage-point hike in hotel tax rates — but it’s also extremely misleading to make it sound like raising hotel taxes and giving the money to the Chargers doesn’t cost San Diegans anything. First off, as NBC Sports’ Mike Florio notes, “plenty of hotel and motel rooms are surely bought and paid for by San Diego residents.” More to the point, though, raising hotel taxes comes with both an opportunity cost — once you give the money to the Chargers, you can’t then raise hotel taxes for other spending purposes — and an economic cost — tourists may love San Diego, but some could learn to love other cities once they see how expensive their hotel bills are after all the taxes are added in. Think about it: If this weren’t the case, every city on earth should be raising hotel taxes as much as possible, and giving the cash to its citizens, because hey, free money!

The other interesting bit here is that by the happy coincidence of the Chargers stadium vote being Ballot Measure C, team execs get to use the same slogan the Padres owners successfully used back in 1998 to get their own stadium, which maybe will bring back happy memories of Tony Gwynn or something? Again, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, one of the first actions of the Yes on C campaign appears, weirdly, to be trying to get voters not to pull the lever for their ballot measure, but to oppose a city councilmember who’s been critical of the stadium plan but who isn’t even up for re-election for another two years:

The team … has come out swinging against a local political opponent, City Councilman Chris Cate, who says the team’s proposal to build a new stadium is a bad deal for taxpayers.

The team’s campaign committee recently has circulated paid advertisements on Facebook that sic the dogs on him.

“Why does Chris Cate want the Chargers to leave San Diego?” the ad says. “Please call and ask him.”

It then publishes his office phone number.

This is kind of a weird strategy, needless to say. San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams (don’t start) tells USA Today that this could be a warning shot to other elected officials not to oppose the stadium campaign, which is entirely possible. It’s also a way to tell voters “The Chargers will leave San Diego if you don’t vote for this” without actually coming out and saying it, in the hopes that no voters will realize that it’s Chargers owner Dean Spanos himself ultimately making this threat, getting mad at him, and thinking, “Go to West Virginia already.” Good luck with that.

Report: Chargers stadium would create 3 cents of new revenue for every public dollar spent

Who hates the San Diego Chargers$1.15 billion stadium-convention center public subsidy demand? Not only most San Diegans, it turns out, but the hotel industry that would have to shoulder increased room taxes in exchange for all the new tourists who would be expected to come to town as a result, but it turns out, wouldn’t really:

The Chargers’ plan for a downtown stadium-convention center will not generate enough meeting business to justify an increase in the hotel tax, concludes a new study funded by the tourism industry…

The proposed center, the study says, holds only limited appeal to meeting planners and would generate just $2.3 million more a year in additional hotel tax revenue, compared to what it estimates are the $67 million in annual public costs for both construction and operation of the project.

Okay, sure, economic impact studies, which can be made to say pretty much whatever you want them to. Still, $2.3 million a year in return on $67 million a year in new costs is pretty horrible even as a worst-case scenario. And the report correctly points out that other NFL-convention center joint projects have worked out pretty terribly as lures for new convention business, though as I’m sure Heywood Sanders would point out if he were awake at this hour, that’s true of lots of standalone convention center expansions as well.

Anyway, the upshot is that Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s uphill battle to convince two-thirds of San Diego voters to approve this thing in November just got even steeper. I’d never say never, especially before all the campaign spending is spent, but if you’re looking to place bets on how the stadium vote will go, take the under.

Chargers $1.15B stadium subsidy headed to November ballot, no one knows that that will mean

The San Diego Chargers have gotten enough signatures to put their $1.15 billion stadium-plus-convention-center-expansion plan on the November ballot — though they still don’t know how many votes they’ll need to pass it, and won’t until a judge rules on that matter, probably not until well after November — but for the moment I want to focus on how this was covered in the local media. The San Diego Union-Tribune:

If approved, the proposal could keep the team from moving to the Los Angeles area, where they’ve been approved by NFL ownership to join the Rams in a new stadium being built in Inglewood.

The Los Angeles Times:

If successful, the franchise would stay in San Diego, as opposed to exercising its option to relocate to Los Angeles as a tenant to Rams owner Stan Kroenke at the stadium he has under construction on the former site of Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood.

Is this really accurate, though? Sure, Chargers owner Dean Spanos says he has an agreement in principle to move to Inglewood if the San Diego stadium proposal fails, but he hasn’t provided any details, and for all we know this is just posturing to try to scare San Diegans into approving his stadium subsidy demands. I mean, probably not — Spanos would presumably rather be a renter in a new stadium in L.A. than top dog in his old one in San Diego — but that all depends on how much Rams owner Stan Kroenke is demanding in tribute to play in his stadium.

Either way, it seems a bit much to make “this will keep the team from moving to L.A.” the lede, as opposed to, say, mentioning that $1.15 billion public price tag, which doesn’t appear until the 5th paragraph in the L.A. Times article, and the 7th paragraph in the U-T article. (Both papers share ownership.) Spanos may be a long, long way from winning the vote, but he’s doing a great job winning the battle to frame the story being told in the papers.

CA court rules tax hikes need two-thirds vote for now, Chargers stadium plan totally hosed, man

Sorry for neglecting this yesterday, because it’s big news, or at least small news that will make a big impact: The California Supreme Court has agreed to review an appellate court ruling that had lowered the threshold for citizen tax-increase initiatives from two-thirds to a simple majority. That’s just review, not overturn — but since it’ll take months if not years for a new ruling, that means the San Diego Chargers‘ plans for a stadium vote this November are hosed, since there’s no way they’re going to win a two-thirds majority. Why, just check out the headline on chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee’s San Diego Union Tribune column today:

Chargers’ stadium hopes take punch to gut

HOPES GOT GUTS! But do continue, Kevin:

California’s two-thirds requirement for tax hikes is a political Mount Everest. Here, given the current climate of some 60 percent of potential voters being opposed to public funds being used for a stadium, it is more like climbing to the moon on a stairway of pixie dust.

So what happens next? The Chargers owners continue their initiative campaign, no doubt (they’ve already submitted petition signatures), and then they lose in November, and then they decide by January whether to avail themselves of their NFL-granted option to bunk with the Los Angeles Rams in their new Inglewood stadium or stick around in San Diego while waiting out the Supreme Court ruling (and hoping the Oakland Raiders don’t then move to L.A. instead). It’s still entirely possible that team owner Dean Spanos doesn’t care, and has a secret plan to lose in November, say, “Hey, I tried,” and then move to L.A. without getting his existing San Diego fan base to come after him with pitchforks and torches, but we’ll find out in January, I guess.


SD councilman proposes “Fan-Lord” owners as Chargers stadium solution, is probably trolling us

Speaking of announcements that weren’t all they were cracked up to be, San Diego city councilmember Carl DeMaio declared yesterday that he has a plan to raise $1.4 billion or more to build a Chargers stadium with no public money required. And how would that work, exactly?

Private developers, the Chargers, and individual fans would all receive ownership shares in the facility based on their initial investment levels. Instead of Personal Seat Licenses, fans can invest in Fan-Lord Ownership Shares in the facility.

He’s trolling us, right? The idea that you can somehow raise $1.4 billion in private capital by dividing up ownership of a stadium pie that is going to be worth way, way less than $1.4 billion in future revenues is amusing enough, but Fan-Lord Ownership Shares? That isn’t even good Game of Thrones fanfic, let alone an NFL stadium finance plan.

You can read the Powerpoint of DeMaio’s proposal here, but the main idea seems to be to turn regular PSLs into these super-PSLs that would include a share of stadium revenues, of which there won’t be any because all stadium revenues are going to be rolled into a laundry list of rounded-off payments, none large enough that they seem totally unreasonable, but at the same time none actually justified by any included market analysis:

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 9.30.02 AMLook, I think everyone would be thrilled if it turned out that the Chargers owners could raise private capital from fans and investors (and fan-investors, which I guess is what “Fan-Lords” would be) to pay for a new stadium and still have money left over to increase their profits over what they’re getting at their current stadium. All evidence, though, is that the numbers don’t come close to adding up to do that. If DeMaio’s plan turns out to be a proof of concept that a Chargers stadium is a money-loser and what the Spanos family wants isn’t so much a new stadium as the subsidies that come with one, that will be a useful addition to the public discourse, sure. But don’t be shocked when this turns out to have all the financial sense of a plan developed by underpants gnomes.

NFL gives three Super Bowls to cities with new stadiums, implies, “Keep ’em coming”

The NFL awarded the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles yesterday, continuing its policy of using the big game as a reward to cities and teams with new or significantly renovated stadiums. Or as Rams owner Stan Kroenke said following the decision, “I think they are telling the communities and the owners who stick their necks out that it’s worthwhile.”

The most important target of the announcement, then, isn’t the three cities that will now get the questionable benefit of hosting the NFL’s annual week-long road show, but those that are being wooed with that dubious carrot. Right now most of the reporting is on how New Orleans and Tampa Bay were snubbed because their stadiums aren’t as shiny as the cities that got the nod, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into future coverage of stadium campaigns — already, San Diego Union Tribune chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee has written that the possibility of getting a Super Bowl shouldn’t be the reason to vote for a new stadium, but really he means that you should vote for a new stadium regardless, so all remains right with the world.

Interestingly, there’s no reporting yet that I can see out of Las Vegas on the Super Bowl decision, but that may be because they’re too busy covering yesterday’s conflicting comments on a potential Oakland Raiders move from owner Mark Davis (“This is the real deal. If Las Vegas can come through, we’re going to be there”) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (“It’s very premature at this point. Until we have more information, it’s pure speculation”). This could be just everyone playing their role — in terms of using Vegas as leverage in hopes of drumming up stadium subsidies from Oakland, Davis is bad cop, Goodell is good cop — or it could be a sign of deeper rifts among league owners over whether Davis should get to bolt from a bigger market to a smaller one in exchange for a lucrative (to him) stadium deal, and on what terms. We won’t know for sure until the next ESPN postmortem, I expect.

NFL commissioner waves around well-worn Super Bowl promise to boost Chargers petition drive

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did what commissioners do on Saturday, promising San Diego a Super Bowl if it approves a new stadium for the Chargers. Well, not promising exactly:

“I’m confident that if they can get a stadium built here, the owners will want to support it with a Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “I think that’s what this community deserves, and we’re all going to work to try and find a solution.”

Yeah, you can totally take that promise to the bank. Not that San Diego wouldn’t get a Super Bowl with a new stadium — they hold them every year, after all, and it wouldn’t be too hard to work San Diego into the rotation at least once — but Goodell’s appearance was far less “announcement” than “media event,” designed to help kick off the Chargers’ petition campaign for $1.15 billion in city spending on a new stadium and convention center annex. A Super Bowl also wouldn’t much help in paying that off, as innumerable economists have found, but at least it might be a pleasant distraction, maybe?